"For You O Lord are a shield about me, You are the glory and lifter of my head. Psalm 3:3

"For You O Lord are a shield about me, You are the glory and lifter of my head. Psalm 3:3

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Our Journey

The other morning I met a dear friend for an early coffee.  She's a mama herself, a missionary recently moved back to the United States, a nurse, an incredible wife and lover of Jesus.  Her heart is gold.  Her life pursues the Father's heart for the orphaned, for the helpless.  Honored she would want my time and would want to discuss foster care.  Her heart has so many questions and fears, the same ones in fact I've had or currently still wrestle with.  From the details of daily rhythms to the broader scope the of the image of a foster parent.  What does she look like and how does she do it?

Subconsciously I've got this answered.  For me the image of a foster parent from the outside looks like some sort of saint.  A person with endless patience and compassion.  Possibly a large home, lots of open space in her calendar and heart.  No time for nonsense like shopping for expensive shoes, no desire for a $5 Starbucks drink, she's way above that stuff and content at all times.  She's sold out to the cause, maybe she takes care of herself but maybe she just doesn't have time for superficial things like make-up and hairspray.  She's got one thing on her mind, the orphaned.  Foster care.  And in that she's relentless and consumed, praying day and night for this child's life meanwhile seamlessly pursuing birth moms and blessing her case workers with homemade bread.  These babies come in and out and because her heart it strong as steel, made out of something thicker and tougher than most, she can release them into hard places and the next day receive another one into her home.  All the while she's getting dinner on the table and leading the torch in her community for this high need in dark places.  That's a foster parent, the measuring stick and the ultimate goal of duplication.

I used to think that's who she was.  That's what it takes to become a foster parent and unless you can somehow emulate her, you're just not cut out for this.  And I'll go ahead and not only completely miss the mark to measure up even close to anything about who she is but I'll also stay paralyzed because not only can I never become that woman, I've got this list of questions coated in fear and answers that don't come in pretty packages and sometimes the answers never come.  And sometimes I like shopping, overpriced coffee, and my house is busting at the seems as it is.  So why on earth would you even think about being a foster parent?  I think every foster parent can answer this differently because no one person has the exact same journey.

After I left that early morning coffee I got to thinking about our journey, our story thus far, only 18 months in.  How did we get here?  Where did it all begin?

For anyone, for any dream walked out, the seed is planted before time began, while we were in wombs of our mamas growing the Maker was writing plans and destinies.  And we can look back over the years and see the investment, the pivotal moments whether good or hard, the people that marked your life for forever, all of it used and an invitation to come in closer to who He is and what He's called us to.  That one day He would use all things for our good and put His beauty for ashes into our hands to step into places we never thought possible.

September 8th, 2014 I sat across from my husband in a booth and casual date night talk took an unexpected turn with one question from me to him.
"What would you think about foster care?"  He looked up from his plate and quickly responded "Uh yeah, sure."  He further explained that he would be interested in the discussion of fostering.  I had never entertained the idea of foster care.  Adoption?  Of course.  Foster care?  No way.
He kept eating and I was shocked at the topic matter now on the table.  I asked if I could look into it, do some research and he said yes.  So that night I stayed up pretty much all night.  I read every article, blog, and document I could get my hands on.  Statistics, records, percentages on anything and everything to do with foster care.  I woke up the next morning ready to go with my arsenal of my findings and next steps.  I convinced him if we wanted to position our family to say yes to the Lord, then we should just go ahead and be ready and by be ready I meant, be approved.  I had already found the perfect agency for our family, memorized their phone number and mission statement.  Normal approval, paperwork, home studies, back ground checks, personality tests, training, doctors' appointments etc. takes around 6 months.  More convincing that it would be at least half a year before we had to do anything.  He nodded in agreement and went to work.  Two months later there was a state seal of approval on our file and our home was deemed open for placement and we were officially waiting.  A week later I was comfortable on my couch, kids had been tucked in, about to enjoy some ice cream and that phone call came for our first placement.

Looking back at that story, I have a few thoughts and answers to my then questions at the time.  The basic common fears and concerns that by no means are absent from my heart but rather the constant pursuit of where we land on the spectrum today, tomorrow, for the unknown to come all the while counting the cost and knowing the end result is letting go.

Someone told me once that I needed to count the cost of foster care.  Make sure I know and have thoroughly considered what it will cost me and my family.  I now have an answer to that.

It will cost you everything.  

Your time, calendar, comfort, convenience, money, sleep, energy.  Not even addressing how and what price your heart pays.  How you learn to sit in meetings and hear beyond horrific realities about siblings and birth moms and you're the only one sobbing at the table because to them, they've heard it before and the norm is no longer alarming.  The cost starts to settle in and these two realities of my life and this other dark world slowly start bleeding together.  This so called cost and high price, for a long time I think I had it backwards.  I had full focus on me.  And so my answer comes just now, over a year in.

It's not about me and what it will cost me.  It's about these babies, these children and what it will cost them if we don't step in and love them.  

I'm not talking about rescue, I'm talking about the love and sacrifice to bring them in for a season without having my questions answered or my life unaffected by that choice.  My job isn't to rescue them because I can't, it's not that simple.  It's impossible.  But the bringing them in part, the answer is they will wait in that place until someone can open a home, a crib, a heart.  They'll stay in homes starving, sleeping in police stations, curled up on cots on CPS office floors, shaking in NICU's while drugs leave their bodies, waiting for a yes.  The yes that unlocks the bondage of their hell, the setting aside of comfort, convenience, and ease to take a step closer to the innocent.  Not asking to be the doorstep they come to but knowing we just happen to be.  High cost unfathomable to consider because the answer is nothing is unscathed.

And the letting go.  It's as hard as you imagine it would be, anyone who has let go can attest to that.  When you let go knowing they're going into dark homes or even when they're going into good homes, the release of a baby or a child is gut wrenching.  So this pain, this unthinkable letting go part of the deal, how on earth do you do that?  A year ago I didn't have an answer but today I do and I realize my answer could change a year from now and each person may have a different response but today here it is.

These babies and children need the love, attachment, safety, and care more than my heart needs protection from the pain of letting them go one day.

It's that simple.  That's how you let them go.  It's nothing to do with that woman who has a heart of steel and is all things consumed in foster care.  That lady, the one who can't be bothered with such silly things as lattes, I'm not her and I never will be and He's not asking me to be her.  I'm only me, with the heart and set of tools, imperfections, and immeasurable failure on a daily basis.  My heart is weak, vulnerable, fearful and selfish.  There's nothing that allows me to give them back any different from the next person.  Gratitude for His design that it's not about me and it's all about Him.  The One who promises strength in weakness and healing in the broken places.  And for all of the unanswered questions, the why's, the endless frustrations and grief, comes a desperation to crawl back to Him as cry out for mercy, more of whatever He has for me.  Learning to let go from that place and there's nothing easy about it but Jesus help me, it's worth it every time.

So our coffee ended and I walked away feeling like I talked too much, gave some really raw answers, rambled on about things that she hadn't asked about.  Not wanting to sound convincing or pushy that I know what's best for her precious family or that she should do this thing of fostering.  But I walked away knowing He's moving and stirring it up.  That this thing of bringing in the innocent pierces darkness with light and it shakes the gates of hell.  Desperate for the promise that light always wins over darkness.  The cross, the blood poured out for my rescue, for our rescue, the same sacrifice is carried in our hearts daily.  Wherever we are planted and whatever we set out to do, we are enough and when we aren't, oh how lovely the hands of the Father who equips and empowers for His glory and greatness.

Every family's journey looks different.  How incredible and creative that He would make it so.  Faithfulness of the Lord we can look back and see how hard it's been, knowing more trials are coming and choosing to trust Him when we can't see a way forward.
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's spirit is right alongside helping us along.  If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter.  He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs and aching groans.
He knows us far better than we know ourselves, our condition and keeps us present before God.  That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of
 love for God is worked into something good.  
Romans 8:26-28

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Into the Darkness

Years ago, our van approached them in the desert.  Their dark skin, thick accents, precious little eyes, boils and dirt covered, hungry bodies.  None of them with parents still living or anywhere to be found.  All of them labelled with those three letters that promise to eventually take their lives at an age far too young.  They hadn't seen rain or food in weeks and their bodies told that story.  We sat in the sand and cared for them, rationed out porridge and watched them eat with their hands while we quickly processed their reality.  What does a college student know of true poverty, sadness, hopelessness?
How do you even begin to have the capacity to respond and have anything to give to them?
They have nothing yet they laugh and sing under bright stars and night's sky, begging it to pour out rain and covering so crops can grow and endless thirst can be quenched.  And then it happens, a great rescue.  One drop, two drops and a downpour ensues.  Sounds I'd never heard and will never forget, worship, chanting of dancing and gratitude around a campfire in a circle.  He's faithful to bring the rain, in their darkest hour.  Rains of hope and promise.      

In the years and life that followed, that memory tucked away came back so quickly.  The phone call that once again interrupted my comfortable pace.  I see that number calling and I know what comes on the other side, a desperate plea to bring this little one in.  She's so many months old, she needs some breathing treatments, can you take her?  Yes of course we will take her.

I run around only to miss their school events, quickly cancel the afternoon's commitments, arrange carpools and rush home.
Lord Jesus be with me.  
Holy Spirit fall heavy on this place.
What can I control?  What can I organize and clean, gather, purchase?

Pour a cup of coffee and wait as the call comes to give word the police are going in for her, your yes gets her out of that house and out of that hell.  Before I know it, that state department car is in my driveway.  I see through the window there's more to the story, there always is.  A tube running into her nostrils because she doesn't breathe on her own.  Tanks of oxygen for reserve.  A machine hooked up to her heart to sound off alarms when her little body doesn't work as it should.  A worn 24 pack soda box packed full of her endless medications.  An empty, old Cheetos sack holding filthy clothes.  And a breathing treatment machine.  I can smell her before she gets in the door.  Neglect on a level my mind can't comprehend.
I can't get a deep breath in as I undress her and all I can say over and over is she's too small.  I realize she came into this world too early but she's too small, her body tells a story too.  Sign stacks of paper work and download an overload of information on medical equipment.  I'm in over my head and I know it.  I'm in over my head and I didn't agree to this.

She hardly cries, she can't take a bottle because a mouth doesn't work when it's rarely given the chance to practice and she drifts off to sleep.  She knows well her cry gets her nowhere and sleep pacifies the hunger pains and passes the time.  She's waiting to die, she's suffering in silence and it's made clear to her she is worth nothing.  I sit in my living room and catch my breath.
And I heard it, the whisper of the Holy Spirit to take her to a hospital.  Now.  I make a few phone calls appearing foolish and irrational, overreactive and I fumble for the medical equipment company phone number, I need to untangle wires and tubes to reattach them to portable units and get her there.  I don't even know her last name but I know she needs rescue.  The waiting room is packed and the staff never sees them, they see us and they move fast.  Their faces tell me what their ink is writing on charts.  She's starving.  Failure to thrive, unkept, uncared for, neglected and tossed aside.  A swarm of nurses and doctors, asking questions, they're calm and swift.  With every answer to a question, measurement, and exam, they move faster and with specificity.  Hours have passed and her tiny body lays in a crib, silver bars going up and nurses hustling with monitors going off, IVs going in, blood being drawn, catheters, all extracting the information they must have so that she lives, because she will be here for a long time.  A feeding tube goes in, dropped into a belly that hasn't been fed as it should.

I pace the room, make phone calls and demands.  She will leave this place some day but it can't be with me.  Lord Jesus I need a drop, no...I need a downpour.  I need movement and breakthrough.  I need a hope that's not a last resort but a true anchor of expectancy to carry me so I can carry her.
Child services, listen to me and listen well.  She needs more than I can give her, she needs a brave foster mama who knows this world of tubes and wires running in and out of little bodies.
One drop.  They find someone willing, she's brave and courageous.  She comes forward, out of the foster care family woodwork and says she will be that person, that mama.

Exhale and walk back into the room and I hear a new voice coming.  I hear a mama storming down the hall, I've learned to know what a mama is like when you take her baby from her.  Bursting into the room, hostility and defensiveness proceed her.  Ranting and raving about stuff that makes no sense and no difference.  Tough talk to a little body laying there fighting.  Nervous pacing and rambling.  She knows no different.  Her mama and her mama's mama know this scene all too well.  Their own babies taken and never brought back.  More ranting and helpless shame and anger unleashed.  I step out into the hall and tell these college age nurses, like I'm talking to myself years ago in that desert heat, I know policy says she can't walk out of here with this baby but you better get ready.  Because in a moment policy goes out the window and harsh reality takes over, be ready.  Oh sweet Jesus she just can't, come again and be her Deliverer.  More phone calls, case workers you hustle even harder because this baby needs you to, her life depends on it.  They agree.  Two drops.
Downpour.  The rains of rescue and hope ensue.

I see that mama swirling in emotions I'll never comprehend and all I can do is put my hand on her and tell her to go over there and talk sweet to that little body.  Go over there and be near to her and be great because she needs you to be great.  But she just doesn't know how, she's never seen it.  And I know it's time to leave but how?  How do you turn around and walk away?  Nothing in you says you can put one foot in front of the other but again He whispers that it's time to walk away.  So you drive home and you slip into your dark, sleeping house.  You scoop up those sleeping babies and weep.  The next morning you watch them chew and swallow food and you fight back tears at the table because how could anyone ever do anything different for their children?
The hard places you go hurt deep.

Into the darkness you wade.  We all do.  We all step into waters deeper and darker than we're made to handle.  We were made for rescue, for desperation for Jesus Christ.  That in the midst of a battle drenched in blood and death, the rescue is coming.  A hope that doesn't disappoint and a Warrior who is mighty to save and when we ask, let's us into a hard place we will never forget.  We take His hand and we walk on waves that were meant to drown deep.  Places where the enemy has reigned and then He comes in for rescue and takes what is lost and discarded and brings beauty for ashes, oil of gladness for mourning and hope for despair.  Places that wait for our yes to bring about how good He truly is.  A tiny glimpse into the heart of a Father who grieves and so graciously allows us to share in that.  The ability to feel and absorb the rains coming, drenched in His hope and promise because hope deferred makes the heart sick but steadfast trust in the promise gives us the victory every time.

So tonight we will tuck in our babies and try to make sense of it all.  We will weep in silence as our sword has been laid down for her, as she lay in that hospital bed.  She will live.  By the grace of God and His merciful rescue, she will leave that hospital one day and in the years to come I pray someone will tell her the story of her rescue.  He is good and He is Rescuer.
But as I walk back downstairs after goodnight routines the question burns in my heart...
How many more need rescuing and how many more don't ever get out?
Jesus, take my thoughts captive and please bring us into the darkness again soon.  Because soon that phone will ring and again You will show Yourself mighty in battle and we will stand in awe.
You're worthy, worthy and deserving of all the praise, and glory and the honor, beautiful Rescuer and Deliverer.

There's a root of our ancestor Jesse,
breathing through the earth and growing tree tall,
tall enough for everyone everywhere to see and take hope.
Oh may the God of HOPE fill you up with JOY, fill you up with PEACE, 
so that your believing lives filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit will brim over with HOPE.  Romans 15:13

Sunday, November 1, 2015

On Letting Go

The last meal I had with my daddy was baked breaded chicken.  I remember his wife soaking it in buttermilk before drudging it in the flour and breadcrumbs.  It was all I could do to keep it together until the end of the night.  History and memory bring pain to the present, we draw from what was to what is now and sometimes it hurts deep.  I watched him sit there so frail and at the end of his life, pained to sit and watch because he was a master at grilling and in all my childhood years I can't remember chicken being cooked other than on a grill.  But chemo doesn't pay attention to life rhythms and traditions, it changes things, even the littlest things.  And for my heart to take in someone else in my kitchen unaware how this was painful, this soaking chicken in buttermilk.  How silly, what does it matter?  Well now I don't understand the inner workings of a heart that grieves but I know for some reason it's taken me almost 7 years to soak some chicken in buttermilk and this past week I did, and silly it may be, it did my heart good.  When we push through that part where our flesh runs out and we have nothing left and the choice of being swallowed by darkness or lost in His love presents itself, and you take it.

For today, the inevitable lies ahead and I'm tempted to forget the altars I've built to turn around and remember His goodness and instead read into the vault of seemingly unanswered prayers and devastation.  The place the enemy loves to pull the hopeful into so that eventually you don't climb out and you quit contending and asking for the impossible.  That vulnerable place in need of rebuilding and desperate to glisten with hope, that Lord I asked you for life and found myself watching death, believed you for protection and the mess of destruction was more than I could bare.  Trusting and knowing He works all things for good for those called according to His purpose and yet when you find yourself on the edge of that cliff about to jump, doubt diligently attempts to creep in and the battle resumes.  Not of flesh and blood but the spiritual realms of darkness and forces of the enemy.  I find myself here and now, remembering being here months ago on this new path.  How soon it came and my heart not expecting to be here for many more months on this foster care journey.

Letting go.

I'll just say it and pose the question, the thing I'm asked the most besides "Are you going to keep him?" and that is the query, more so the statement "How do you let them go? I just couldn't let them go."  We're a year into this battle and my response is the same and I would be lying if I didn't admit I ask myself the same question.  I have been here before, we have been here before only this time I know the pain and grief coming.  The answer hasn't changed and I don't expect it to.
Me either.  I can't let them go either.  It's as hard and sad as you think it is.  Only more.

But let's go ahead and complicate things because foster care is so far from simple, just as any good thing worth fighting for is.  You're blind sighted, ill-equipped, weak, tired, and immature on this battle field yet the darkness comes, the arrows don't cease and holding up that shield of faith is exhausting.  The inevitable approaches, we signed the dotted line to say we are willing to get really good at letting go, we're actually in this to let go.  I don't want to get good at it.  And your name on that paperwork signs you up for the commitment to heart ache, the unknown, and this harsh reality of a dark world.  All delivered without warning or protocol.

Walking in the grocery store, working through my list and the phone rings.  We heard time lines earlier in the process, he will be with you for awhile.  Paper work for adoption so a forever family can come for him while he waits with us, well that takes time so we do our part of the stacks of documents meant to be filled out by his mama only she's long gone and not coming back for him, she just can't.  So you pour another cup of coffee and you put his precious life on paper, on a file in hopes the diagnosis and the medical reports don't scare anyone off.  And somewhere between us being told that it's a long process and with this baby it's not even guaranteed he will be wanted, until that mid store glance at my list, the phone rings.  A family member coming forward to adopt him, get him ready, he's leaving soon.

And those words are about as gut wrenching and foreign as I imagined they would be.  You see, you're the one in the NICU, signing papers and bringing him home into your world.  You're the one who pushes through the fears of how deep I go in love is how deep it will hurt when he leaves.  Loving him will fill him up and loving him will empty you and cost you everything.  Hours of phone calls, emails, visits and correspondence and all along you're determined to bring this in close, so that the ones invested deep remember this is a human life here, not a docket number or a statistic.
Your mind runs parallel with the realities at hand and your heart struggles to keep up and lead in truth.  Because His truth is truly the only anchor in this.  We can only love because He first loved us.

So take that love and run with it, have the hard conversations, tread into unknown waters and push down how scared you are because that whispering fear, the enemy's unending lies are waiting for my weakness.  And when the system again shows you how it's broken and overwhelmed, you have the choice of where to land on the spectrum.  I can do the bare minimum and just change his diapers, feed him, and swaddle for bed time.  I can truly wash my hands and draw up the list of why and how this complicates and shakes up my every convenience and after a few sleeps forget about it and move on. I can fall somewhere in the middle, catch myself holding him at arms length and yet wanting to let him deeper into my soul.  And then I can sell out.  I can understand the truth that in order to fill him full of everything he needs that means the emptying of me, of us.  A high cost.  A bounty on my time, energy, sleep, emotion, and nothing is unscathed.  If I'm honest and think for every foster parent, with each child, it's different and you find yourself somewhere on that spectrum throughout the process.  And I think it's okay, I think you give what you can and you know your limitations because the further deep you get, someone and something pays the price.

Which brings me back to the letting go, someone asked me what it feels like to let go.  What does it truly feel like when no one is watching, there's no glam or glory, when you do all the work only to have no rights, no legal leg to stand on, only to let them go?  I would say it begins with the day you decide where you're going to start on the spectrum.  Once you get past the decision that you're not going to guard your heart with the thought that this is only temporary, once you decide you're all in...well that's the moment you've chosen a deep, foreign ache like no other.  And that ache will show itself in various and unexpected ways.  There's no prep or professional delivery for the hard conversations.  You're walking into a dinner banquet only to stand in a parking lot fighting back tears on the phone because these babies are moved like luggage and when you swing to the other end of the spectrum and fight like you would fight for your own kids, there's no settling and you grit your teeth to find a compromise.  Then you dry your eyes and compose yourself and walk back into your reality.

Then one day you get a date, the day he will leave and although you hope you will see him again, something deep inside says this could be it.  Mind races and so quickly you can come up with a long list of your worst fears and worse case scenarios.  The statistics roll through your head like clock work, the evening news doesn't help, and you hush the alarms sounding off that keep you up at night.  Your mind doesn't want to settle down and your heart grasps for solid ground.

Oh how the enemy can feed the lies faster than I can ingest them.  The whispers that it's his territory and I'm playing a game I'll never win.  That no part of this can yield hope or life because his darkness blankets all over this reality and nothing can save this sinking ship.  Hopelessness, depression, discouragement, and fear rule the day.

That's what we buy into when we lose our gaze of the One who uses him as a footstool.

Letting go means a desperate yes to the Lord to come comfort and bring peace beyond our understanding.  A chance to learn, to know quickly when I'm leaning on my own thoughts and strength it brings me closer to the lies awaiting to swallow me whole, and this baby too.  Clinging to the Lord's word and declaring His promises as this baby's hope and future.  It's sitting your kids down over cookies and telling them as simply as you can that he is leaving, that their love is enough, that soon they won't be sad anymore.  It's a desperate running start to stay enough ahead of them because they follow your lead and look to you for how to handle it.  So mama you had better be filling your cup every morning in the dark early hours.  You had better contend for your flesh to decrease and immeasurable increase of God's presence because it's the only thing that sees you through this release that's coming soon.

And then from downstairs I hear your coos, you're awake and you are ready for a bottle, ready for a love so deep and strong, and a goodbye coming in the weeks ahead.  So I'll rock you in the rocker my mama cuddled me in and I'll tell you my love for you, our love for you.  You need to hear it, you are worth it all.

Dear Little One, because that day will come when I've packed you up and kissed you a thousand times.  And my heart and mind flashback to the day I walked into that NICU and sobbed just looking at your little body, the way I couldn't see the print on the hospital discharge summary of the delivery room through my tears.  How desperate we were to just get you home and into a family.  How the daily appointments overwhelmed because you needed so much care and help.  I bathed you and breathed you in long and deep, your soft curls and sweet eyes.  In a few weeks I'll buckle you in and tuck the blanket around your little legs one last time.  I'll watch you in the mirror at every stop light and cry out to the Lord to go before you, He just has to go before you.  I'll drive you to her house and watch her face light up to see you, she loves you and she's waited for you, for this day.  Steaming hot tears will continuously flow and I'll try to put words together, closing remarks, last minute details to stall the moment and try to fill the empty space in the moment, the empty space quickly growing in my heart.  I'll tell her to call me whenever she needs me, I'll be here in a second.  I'll lay down my life for this precious one,  for you my Little One.  Then it's time, time for you to start your life with her and time for me to leave.  I'll fumble my keys into the ignition and pull away, I'll watch you in the rear view mirror as long as I can and weep.  I'll weep over you because you are the most valuable in the kingdom and you are a son of the most high King.  I'll grieve letting you go because it goes against everything in a human heart to bring in deep only to release into the unknown.
Oh my Little One, tonight I will climb into my bed and your crib will be empty and so is my heart, our hearts.  Tomorrow His mercies will be new and He will restore and heal our hearts.  Eventually I'll quit thinking I hear you, I'll wash and put your clothes away, I'll try not to cry when I stumble to answer how many kids I have, I have 5 no...4 kids.

And my little one, from the minute we brought you home you would hear your daddy's voice and you would slowly move your head towards the sound, the low tones of him talking to the girls, talking to you, talking to me.  In the night I hear Him reveal promise to me over you, dear little one.  It's how you were made and how you will always be, a listener, a hearer of the Shepherd's voice.
You will be a lover of His presence, a worshipper and a carry of His goodness and hope.
You will always yearn and lean into hear His voice, your Father's voice.
You will always wait and move into His good plans for your life.
You will always be loved and you will never be forgotten.

Little one, this is the hard part.  Letting you go, please know it was never easy for us but we love you and trust He loves you more.  That He will tuck you in under His wings and be your tower you can run into.  We love you precious one and we always will.

When we're ready and soon we will be ready, we will remember faintly this deep pain and we will say yes again because yet again, a little life will lay and wait.  This new struggle on letting go, we trust you over and over that when it's unthinkable and we have nothing left, You carry us further and exceed where we thought we could go.  Jesus how You give us courage to love deeply, soak chicken in buttermilk, have hope when it's hopeless, wait in expectancy, and let go.

So tonight we will count down the hours and wait for you to come back home after your visit with her.  Soon she will be your mama but not yet, not today.  Today and every day coming you will be loved and adored not just by us and our world but by your heavenly Father who sees you and knows you.  Letting you go is coming and we know it but tonight you are ours, you always will be ours.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

With Every No

Years ago I remember the first time I bought Dreft infant laundry detergent.  A new found love of the smell in my laundry room, on her body, and in drawers when I opened them.  I would have never guessed that one day I would stand in line buying detergent again only this time it wasn't for a baby in my womb but for one whose needs are so great we don't even know where to begin.  That if the signs are missed and the situation is overlooked and he leaves for home with her, he doesn't live and if he does the wounds and neglect begin early.

The last time I was here, Christmas was around the corner, a bitter cold had settled in, school was almost out and then came that late night phone call.  We know nothing about this baby, we know you're an open home, qualified and certified.  Will you take this baby knowing nothing?  Qualified and certified on paper but no part of me knows how to do this hard thing.
A yes offered up trusting in His character so certain and sovereign.  He knows all and sees all.  He knows this little babe desperate to live and he knows and sees a family waiting in the unknown of what their yes actually gets them into.  Because we trust Him and we cling to promises like we never have, but just like anyone who steps off a plane in Asia, Africa, Tulsa; to bring her home, to be the family she doesn't have, you don't know what's on the other side of that yes.  You don't know how long it will last or the cost that you can't possibly count.

I've heard the question so many times, just how exactly does it work?  How does foster care work?  Do you get to pick your child?  Do you hear their story first, do details come with the heart ache?
It's nothing glamorous in fact it's overwhelming and gut wrenching.  It's a phone call while you're unloading groceries, making dinner, running carpool.  Usually the age, gender, possibly a name followed by a few sentences.  A life that easily fits on a post-it note because much if not everything is unknown.  You make your decision of yes or no and give your answer, then within hours or days that child is in your home, or they're not.  Then life resumes without a pause.  After time one child leaves your care and as soon as you're ready, that phone rings and it doesn't stop.  A one year old removed from a drug infested house a county away, twin baby girls picked up for abuse a few hours away, a young teen mama and her newborn need a safe place.  The need is so vast where do we begin?  Lord, give me blueprints like Noah because the rains coming will swallow me whole if I don't know my best yes and my no isn't gripped in peace and confidence of my capacity, our capacity.  Because with every phone call we say no to, she waits and she sits longer in that place of upheaval and a rug yanked out from under innocence so fast their little hearts struggle to keep up with the new commanded processing speed.  And they close shelters saying the problem is better when all the while those numbers keep soaring, abuse and neglect on the rise and yet today I still said no.

So go to sleep with that, settled into my comfortable bed, clean sheets and a pantry full of food.  Those babies upstairs all safely tucked in, night lights and stuffed animals secure them.  A calendar tomorrow I laugh to think is actually busy when really, it's nothing compared to this pace of violence, abandonment, removal, and displacement trumping anything I think is oh so busy and crazy.  She leaves with nothing, maybe a few things in a trash bag and waits for the other end of the phone to say yes even though she comes with great sacrifice, challenge, and pain.

And so you wrestle with that yes, what's my yes and Jesus help me know it clearly and allow me to be unwavering in commitment when the rains do come, because they're coming on all sides.  The fight and the roller coaster of this dark reality.  Give me specifically the very thing You are asking of me and when we do say yes, that yes is the bare minimum of what we can hardly handle, pour out Your grace because it's needed more than ever.

So that placement acceptance to bring in a child is given like a free fall off a cliff into realms I don't know, don't want to know about, and can't hardly stomach to think about.  I like it comfortable.  I like my head in the clouds, I like caught up in me, I like my systems untouched and my iCal color coded into rhythms and complete order.  I don't miss the pull on my heart in the lull of the night when I think about what she came from or where she may return, or the siblings before who didn't survive the boyfriend who couldn't stand the inconvenience of noise and crying.  The stakes are high and the value of these precious lives can't stand to have anything but relentless fight for their highest and best.

Today we said yes.  The phone call came that she was born and needed a home.  No information, nothing certain about what this little life needs or how long she needs it.  Days, weeks, months, years, or forever?  You learn her and she learns you.  The voice she heard for months in the womb is gone and this new voice is unfamiliar.  Lord Jesus make it the sweetest sound to her.  With every feeding, every diaper change, every bath, be her Gardener that plants seeds that don't return void.  Speak when she sleeps, whisper Your unending delight and affection over her.  Made in Your image and workmanship, You were there weaving her into existence.  Knit together perfectly and the destiny planned for is good.  Tell me what she needs and tell me how to do it.  Tell us when to fight loud and tell us when to weep in secret.  Forgive us for the continuous shortcomings and messes this will bring to the surface in our identity, go before us and give us the daily bread we are desperate for.  Apart from You we are nothing and with you we can't lose, and neither can she.  And as we cling to the garments or praise won't You come and be Rescuer, defender of the oppressed and orphaned.  Pull out the claws of darkness from this little life and be the lifter of heads, hope to the hopeless.  Be who You promise to be in his life, in this yes.  And with every no we gave, bind up those innocent lives and protect them from every scheme aimed at their destiny.  Be the watchman who tucks them in at night and speaks truth into their hearts, shielding them from pain and sorrow.  I trust You, I have to.

Over and over we will say we trust You in all things at all times.  For today a desperate dependence for the constant struggle between letting her in, pulling in her close because it's what she needs, all she needs.  And the knowing that we've been here before, and when you love a baby so deep and they leave without you having a say.  Well now that just makes your heart ache, a foreign ache different than I've ever known.  Sitting in a parking lot the other day, knowing the choice was waiting for my heart to make, quicker than last time.  That moment when you make the choice, because it is a choice, that says I'm going to love you, love doesn't come half way or remain reserved to protect my heart, our hearts.  This new love comes with such a high price and daily battle of the fear of the unknown and the control I so desperately desire.  Some days it's all I can think about and other days I don't know that I can handle this, in fact I know I can't handle this.

Trusting that with every no that lead us to her yes, the Father knew and continues to know the path bringing us to her hospital bassinet and equally parallel drawing us to Himself.
It's so simple, You tell me, she needs to know she's valuable, that her cries are heard, that she's worth protecting and fighting for.  And then you choose to love her and love her deep.

Mama you had better know what undeserving grace feels like to the touch and understand the mess you've stepped into wasn't yours to create but it will get you dirty and bring a whole new meaning to the word complicated.  Because I've got school supplies lined up, backpacks monogrammed with her initials because I begged for her life and the first time I saw her face years ago I thought my heart would burst.  Soccer practice carpools in the works and dance shoes have been bought, and then you sit on my couch with your stack of paperwork, a name on a file, and ask me if I want to adopt her.  And those words just nearly bring everything to a crashing halt.  What's your answer?  I was just debating on what to cook for dinner and grocery lists and now this question lingers in silence in my living room.  Jesus did you hear what she just asked because we're talking her forever here.  Mercy, Father help me because I need Your will to be done, I need Your nearness like never before, a swift audible response.  Silence.  Let go of the tight grip of control and pour out Your grace, be still my heart because my mind is racing.

In the background the television chirps, tax payers money and supreme court time spent on athletes to determine whether or not they're doping, deflating footballs for man's praise and a golden statue that says they're supreme for some performance.  Million dollar mansions on multiple states and continents.  Red carpets with perfection praised and mishaps ridiculed, the famous hand stitched dress goes for the same price some broken mama somewhere tried to sell her baby for just so she can get high.  While the least of these wait and suffer in a silence so dark I can't fathom the sounds and images they see daily.  While mamas leave hospitals empty handed and where is she when her milk comes in but she's failed so many times her chances are gone.  Someone please tell me why it even becomes a topic of conversation, a headline story of whether or not his bat was loaded and did he receive bribes from a collegiate booster because right now I know she was rescued but her mama slips back into the devil's grip and on this couch I sit and I can't hardly put words together.  What does my no mean if I give it here?  Is my yes the thing You are asking me today?

Jesus come swift and speak clearly because the need suffocates and the darkness doesn't end.
Come in close and say what she needs and what You need us to be.  Be in this conversation and make Your mighty mark on this paper work.  Just tell me what to do, please.

So that washing machine spins and I take in that subtle, familiar scent.  I hold this little life and watch her clothes spin around and I fight back tears, the weeping that awaits every day.  I can't do this, we can't do this.  I'm not strong enough, wise enough, in tune enough.  I can't juggle this load of being this strong man's helpmate, their mama present to know she scored a goal left footed instead of right, and notice her reading score went up a point.  Don't forget the piles of laundry not going anywhere, a house needing cleaning, and the beautiful gift of each day.  And make decisions for this little one that will affect the rest of her life.  Decipher what's immediate, what's most important, what's the highest need right now.

Wait for the whisper of hope and don't forget the grace that awaits because it's only by His grace that we are, any of us.  Grab hold and cling to garments of praise and don't lose sight of His face, not even for a moment.  Jesus say it to me over and over again that the only thread that keeps me from losing the fight of overwhelming realization of her reality is Your mighty vine that reaches deep into our hearts and breathes life in when we can't take a breath.  Speak the words to my mind and vision into my heart so that when my mouth opens it's only your will.  Quiet my flesh and silence the justice turned angry when I hear her mama's story and every story before and after this one.  When their choices devour the innocent and lay out a welcome mat for the horrifically unimaginable, remind me Lord of the grief my sin causes You.  Remind me how thousands of years ago she stood in the city courtyard surrounded by the crowd baring stones in their hands, ready to hand her the punishment she deserved.  Remind me how Your Son walked onto the scene with the challenge to cast the first stone to any who are without sin.  Keep my heart soft when it hardens with judgment and disgust.

And tonight Jesus please bring the innocent your mighty wing and take them up with you when the ones who are meant to lay down their life for them are the very ones shattering their worlds.  Be who You say You are, please You just have to be.  When I close my eyes only let your truth run circles around my thoughts and quiet the fear so so readily waits to haunt.
We will declare you are trustworthy.
You are good.
You are the strong tower the righteous with desperation run into.
You are the One who navigates through our pain and sorrow to bring hope to the hopeless places.

Would You come put only Your powerful truth in my mouth and write Your promises deep into our hearts.  We can't do this, we know we can't.  Come be the strength in our weakness.

Would You come.
 Isaiah 51:16
I have put my words in your mouth and covered with you the shadow of my hand,
I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth,
and who say to Zion 'you are My people.'